Coronavirus means that Lebanon, which has seen months of fractious politics, is now having to adapt to a new way of doing politics.
Lebanese parliamentarians met for the first time since protests began in February in a bid to deal with the country’s spiralling economic and political crises.
In an effort to observe social-distancing measures lawmakers are meeting in a theatre in Beirut.
Marking the new move by parliament, protesters drove around Beirut honking from their cars while still trying to observe social-distancing rules.
The #LebaneseRevolution has adapted to #coronavirus with people driving around #Beirut in their cars as Parliament meets today. Protests had stopped due to the coronavirus in #Lebanon, but, with the worsening #EconomicCrisis, demonstrations have began again. #لبنان_ينتفض #لبنان pic.twitter.com/doEmRWeeDB— Nicholas Frakes | نيكولاس فرايكس (@nicfrakesjourno) April 21, 2020
The country’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab and parliamentarians were greeted at the theatre by healthcare workers disinfecting officials amid a high-security presence.
The three-day parliamentary session will be a marathon process attempting to deal with laws that have remained frozen including those fighting corruption, restoring looted funds and allowing the planting of cannabis for medical use.
Lebanon imposed a lockdown in March in a bid to control the spread of the coronavirus. The country has seen more than 600 infections and 21 deaths.
During the last few months as the cost of living has soared, thousands of people have lost their jobs or had their wages cut.
Huge security presence w/ parts of #Beirut cordoned off as #Lebanon parliament goes into its first legislative session since the #LebanonProtests.— Timour Azhari (@timourazhari) April 21, 2020
Protesters in convoys are meanwhile driving around parts of the country to express opposition pic.twitter.com/miOwwVmKm1
Lebanese people have experienced high levels of discontent with their politicians, whom they see as largely being out of touch with the everyday needs of people.
Few points on the parliamentary session in #Lebanon— Luna Safwan - لونا صفوان (@LunaSafwan) April 21, 2020
•First time in years that a session takes place outside of the parliament.
•MPs & Journos reported seeing many armed civilians around the Unesco palace.
•They did not identify themselves as ISF/Intelligence. pic.twitter.com/v9eXEOMazv
Critics of the Lebanese Parliament argue that priorities are skewed towards helping their friends. As an example, they argue that the current amnesty law being considered in parliament could help those that have committed criminal acts, such as terrorism by suspending pardoning perpetrators.
Human Rights Watch has said the law, if it passes, “would likely have further entrenched impunity, including for corruption, in the country.”
#Lebanon parliament is going into session today, but there are problematic bills on their agenda, including the amnesty law. In November, @hrw argued that the broad draft law would pardon public officials accused of serious misconduct & corruption. https://t.co/RACFPY4DZN— Aya Majzoub (@Aya_Majzoub) April 21, 2020
People in Lebanon had refused to end their protests even though a new government was announced in January this year, led by Prime Minister Hassan Diab, a 60-year-old professor at the American University of Beirut.
Many Lebanese demand a technocratic government saying they are tired of the corruption and the never-ending economic crisis.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, Beirut’s streets have been deserted.
Lebanon has been without a government since former prime minister Saad Hariri resigned in October due to pressure from protesters regarding state corruption.
The Financial Times warned that the economic pain in Lebanon could grow worse as the government seeks to manage its ballooning debt, which is more than 170 percent of GDP, one of the highest in the world.
Even as the pandemic has resulted in protests fizzling out, activists are adamant in attempting to hold the government to account.
One of the protesters said: “We are here to tell them that the revolution will stay, the revolution will not die and we are going back to the streets stronger than before.”